HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: Budget crunch has put the brakes on the much-talked road widening drive that was in full swing until a month ago.
The road expansion campaign, which had earned accolades from several quarters for it was aimed at giving relief to commuters who are usually stuck in traffic gridlock, has been suspended since April 13.
The chief of the Kathmandu Valley Town Development Enforcement Committee Er Bhaikaji Tiwari, who was until April 13 quite a busy man, for more than a month now has been forced to twiddle his thumbs. After former Kathmandu mayor Keshav Sthapit took over as the commissioner of the Kathmandu Valley Development Authority, a high-power government mechanism tasked with ‘beautifying’ the Capital city, the campaign to demolish illegally built structures has come to a halt.
Interestingly, the government was yet to release budget for KVTDEC which was authorised to carry out the road expansion drive. Tiwari said the government was yet to provide Rs 96.5 million the government had promised. “I am discouraged,” said Tiwari. On the other hand, officials at KVTDEC have not been paid their salary for the month of Baisakh. Like Tiwari, other 200 officials these days are sitting idle.
Around 32.2 km of 400-km stretch of Kathmandu roads was expanded during the drive, and expansion of another 26.5 km of road was under way.
While budget crunch has halted the campaign, the newly appointed Commissioner Sthapit seems to have different views on the whole issue. On the day Sthapit assumed office, he had taken exception to the way the roads were being expanded and had termed the entire demolition drive ‘inappropriate’.
When asked what plan he has come up with, Sthapit said he was busy with ‘internal preparations’ and added that he was expecting budget disbursement and a new office by Sunday.
The road expansion campaign has now hit a snag, but what is worrisome is heaps of debris collected during the demolition drive are making general public bathe in dust. Moreover, with the monsoon just round the corner, the problems are going to rain on pedestrians and commuters alike. The prime minister, it is learnt, had told authorities to clear the debris by mid-May in view of rainy season. But Chief at Kathmandu Valley Roads Expansion Project Shyam Kharel said it was impossible to do so before the monsoon as his office was crippled by frequent strikes and fuel shortage.